Abel Tesfaye (born February 16, 1990), known by his stage name The Weeknd, is an Ethiopian-Canadian recording artist and record producer. In late 2010, Tesfaye uploaded several songs to YouTube under the name "The Weeknd", though his identity was initially unknown. In 2011, he released three nine-track mixtapes: House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silence, which were critically acclaimed. In 2012, he released a compilation album, Trilogy, consisting of remastered versions of the mixtape material and three additional songs. It was released under Universal Republic Records, and his own label XO.
The Weeknd has received praise from several music publications, including Pitchfork, MTV, BET, Rolling Stone, XXL and The Source. MTV's John Norris has dubbed him the "songbird of his generation" and the "best musical talent since Michael Jackson".
The Weeknd was born Abel Tesfaye in Scarborough, Ontario, on February 16, 1990. He is of Ethiopian descent. He grew up listening to a variety of music genres, including soul, quiet storm, hip hop, funk, indie rock, and post-punk.
2010–11: Beginnings and mixtapes
In Toronto, Tesfaye met producer Jeremy Rose, who had an idea for a dark R&B musical project called "The Weekend". After trying to pitch the idea to musician Curtis Santiago, Rose played one of his instrumentals for Tesfaye, who freestyled over it, and they began working on an album. He produced three songs—"What You Need", "Loft Music", and "The Morning"—and others that Tesfaye rapped on, which Rose ultimately scrapped. After Tesfaye had been in a conventional R&B group called the Noise, Rose encouraged him on their project to "talk about, fuckin' and getting too high and trying to fuck bitches and it not working out. Let's get really grimy about it." According to Rose, they partied and made music while becoming good friends at the time. However, he backed out of the project due to creative differences between him and Tesfaye, who insisted they do club tracks. Rose later said, "I don't know if it was a change in his heart or the people around Abel trying to guide him ... it got to the point where he wouldn't respect my opinion. He wanted me to produce for him without any of my input. And I was like, 'Well then, what’s the point of being a group?' and he was like, 'You can just be my producer,' and I said, 'Are you going to pay me?' Then [I realized he was] not going to pay me."
Rose let Tesfaye keep the tracks he had produced under the condition that he would ultimately be credited for them. However, in December 2010, Tesfaye uploaded "What You Need", "Loft Music", and "The Morning" to YouTube under the name "The Weeknd", though his identity was initially unknown. The songs drew attention online through word of mouth, including a blog featuring the songs posted by Toronto-based rapper Drake, who also helped generate interest in the Weeknd. They subsequently received coverage from outlets such Pitchfork Media and The New York Times. Rose then sent Tesfaye an e-mail demanding he be credited, but did not receive a response back. On March 21, 2011, Tesfaye released the nine-track mixtape House of Balloons for free through his website. It featured production by Illangelo and Doc McKinney, although it did not credit Rose for his tracks. House of Balloons was met with critical acclaim, and was named as one of ten shortlisted nominees for the 2011 Polaris Music Prize.
In July, the Weeknd embarked on a tour and delivered his first performance at the Mod Club in Toronto. The hour-and-a-half long performance created buzz about him. His next performance took place at Toronto’s Molson Canadian Amphitheatre. He collaborated with rapper Drake and appeared as one of the special guests to Drake’s 2nd Annual OVO Fest on July 31, 2011. During the summer, the press noted that the Weeknd refused to participate in interviews and chose to only communicate via Twitter. His second mixtape Thursday was released on August 18, 2011, as a free digital download from the Weeknd's website, and was well received by critics. The Weeknd's third mixtape, titled Echoes of Silence, was released on December 21, 2011. All three mixtapes garnered him critical acclaim and a growing fanbase.
In April 2012, the Weeknd began his US tour by performing at the Coachella Festival. He and his band visited various major cities, and culminated in New York, where two sold-out shows were positively reviewed by Rolling Stone. Tesfaye and his tour band continued in major European festivals, including the Primavera Sound Festivals in Spain and Portugal, Wireless Festival in London, plus concerts in Paris and Brussels. At his debut UK show in London, he covered Michael Jackson's Dirty Diana in front of an audience which included Kate Perry and Florence Welch. In June, it was reported that the Balloons Trilogy had been downloaded 8 million times and that it would be formally released later in the year.
In September, The Weeknd signed with Republic Records in a joint venture with his own imprint label XO. The compilation album Trilogy was released in November, consisting of remastered versions of the mixtapes and three additional songs. It also officially credited Rose as a producer and writer on three songs from House of Balloons. On December 9, the BBC announced that the Weeknd he had been nominated for the Sound of 2013 poll. In March 2013, he will be on tour in the UK: he will give concerts in Glasglow, Manchester, Birmingham and London. On January 7, the Weeknd revealed on Twitter a picture of his computer folder titled "2013 untitled album".
The Weeknd's songs are built around a fogged, crepuscular production, and feature slow tempos, rumbling bass, and forlorn echoes. The Weeknd sings in a falsetto register, and exhibits a pleading, anxious tone. J. D. Considine finds his singing's "tremulous quality" similar to Michael Jackson, but writes that he eschews Jackson's "strong basis in the blues" for a more Arabic-influenced melisma. His music incorporates samples that are unconventional in R&B production, including punk and alternative rock.[ Marc Hogan of Spin says that The Weeknd's samples tend "to draw from rock critic-approved sources, though generally ones that already share elements of his sexual menace", with samples of artists such as Beach House, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Aaliyah. The Weeknd worked mostly with producers Illangelo and Doc McKinney, whom Pitchfork Media's Ian Cohen credits with developing "a state-of-the-art R&B template" with the Weeknd. In concert, the Weeknd reappropriates their digitized productions with a suite-like arena rock aesthetic.
His emotional, plaintive lyrics often express feelings of hurt and deal with subject matter such as sex,[ drugs, and partying. Hermoine Hoby of The Guardian characterizes the Weeknd's songs as "narcotised-slow jams" and delineates their message as "partying is an existential experience, sex is fraught with alienation, and everything registers as unreal and unsettling." The Guardian's Paul MacInnes interprets the Weeknd's trilogy of mixtapes as "a rough trajectory of party, after-party and hangover". Anupa Mistry of the Toronto Standard observes throughout his mixtapes a "cast of supine, stoned zombie-women ... whose legs willingly part after being plied with substances and who morph into threats only when [he is] coming down and feeling vulnerable."
Music journalists associate the Weeknd with PBR&B, an emerging wave of recording artists whose music expands on the sound and sensibility of R&B. Mistry writes that he "will be obsequiously praised as the future of R&B music - because is a black singer, not because he’s making quantifiable, canonical R&B". Allmusic's Andy Kellman categorizes him as an "alternative R&B act". Prior to his major label deal, the Weeknd withheld his identity and maintained an enigmatic, shadowy persona while releasing his mixtapes online. On social media outlets such as Twitter, he suffixed his name with "xo", an emoticon for "a hug and a kiss".
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